DIXFIELD — Throughout his storied 39-year career in law enforcement, Richard Pickett said he always felt compelled to solve crimes — no matter how long it took.

“I always had to find the other piece of that puzzle,” Pickett said Friday afternoon, sitting behind the desk that he worked at for nearly 17 years as Dixfield’s chief of police. “There are a lot of officers who can hand off a criminal case to someone else and not be bothered by it, but I always needed to solve the puzzle and figure out what happened.”

Pickett retired as chief on Jan. 30. He’s now a state representative for House District 116, which includes Mexico, Dixfield, Canton, Peru and Hartford.

He grew up in Greenville and “never once thought” about becoming a police officer when he was young.

Upon graduating from high school in 1969, he worked a series of jobs that paid the bills, but didn’t satisfy him the way he wanted, he said.

“Some of the jobs I had were good jobs when I started, but I knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” Pickett said. “From the time I was 20 to when I was 25, I floundered around, looking for something to do. I didn’t know what God wanted me to do — but I knew I needed to figure it out.”

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When he was 25, an answer arrived in the form of a TV commercial during a baseball game.

“It was Saturday afternoon, and I was at home watching a baseball game,” Pickett said. “An advertisement came on for the Maine State Police. It said that they were looking for a few good men.”

Pickett laughed as he added, “I remember yelling to my wife, ‘Hey, hon, I think I’m going to be a state trooper!’ She almost fell down laughing. At that point, it was a joke.”

However, shortly after seeing the advertisement, Pickett called the Maine State Police, who sent him an application. He submitted it.

Pickett scored well in the physical and written exams, and by Feb. 1, 1976, he was accepted into the Maine State Police, where he attended a 16-week course at Thomas College in Waterville.

“It was a grueling course,” Pickett said. “It was one of those things that you don’t enjoy at the time, but when you look back on it, you realize that it taught you a lot of valuable lessons.”

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For the first seven years of his career, he patrolled the Peru, Roxbury and Byron area. In April 1983, he became a state police detective, serving 16 years. He later attended the Frances Glessner Lee Homicide School in Baltimore, Md.

“Thank God we don’t have the volume of homicides like they do in some other states,” Pickett said. “Still, there were some tough cases that I’ve had to work over the years.”

He said his years as a detective allowed him to see the good things in people, including “communities coming together to help each other out with things.”

There was also the “ugliness out there.”

“It’s hard to believe sometimes how another human being can do the types of things they do to each other, but it happens,” he said. “People say, ‘How can you deal with that kind of stuff?’ I answer that you can’t, if you look at crime scenes from a human nature standpoint.

“If you go in, and look at it as a tragedy and as something horrific that happened, you won’t be able to do your job,” Pickett said. “You have to be able to go into a case, and no matter how ugly and horrific it is, you can’t look at it and see a human being. You have to see evidence. We’re geared to see evidence. You have to ask yourself, ‘Where can I find evidence in this scene to bring the person to justice that created this crime?’”

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Pickett paused for a moment before continuing.

“But then, there’s the downtime afterward,” he said. “After you’ve had a chance to get away and it hits you, you realize just how tragic it is. That’s part of doing the job. That’s why not everyone can do it.”

Pickett served as lead investigator on a homicide in Bridgton that went unsolved for more than 20 years, and he worked on the case of Kimberly Ann Moreau, a 17-year-old Jay teenager who went missing in 1986 and has never been found.

“That case still bugs me,” Pickett said. “It’s the one thing that still hangs over my head. I pray for the family’s sake that the family can have some sort of closure.”

After 22 years and two months with the Maine State Police, Pickett retired April 30, 1998, and accepted the Dixfield chief of police job four days later.

“At the time, I had reached my 20-year retirement date, and I felt I had gone as far as I could go within the Maine State Police,” Pickett said. “Fortunately, I found a town that was interested in what I had to offer, and once I was hired as the chief of police in Dixfield, I poured my life into the town.”

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Pickett served as selectman from 1993 to 1998. He was forced to leave the position midway through his second term when he was hired as chief of police.

“There are laws governing what sorts of positions you can hold within town government when you’re with the chief of that town, so I was always looking for ways to stay involved with the town,” Pickett said.

In addition to the Board of Selectmen, Pickett sat on the Finance Committee, the Economic Development Council and served on the Planning Board twice: once in the early 2000s, and again in 2012.

In 2009, he was approached by the Republican Party about running for the District 116 seat in the House of Representatives.

“I sat down and had coffee with them, and we talked about whether it’s something I was interested in,” Pickett said. “At that point in time, I realized the timing wasn’t right. I was still the chief, and I thought to myself, ‘How can I do a full-time job here in Dixfield, and do justice to my constituents?’ It just didn’t seem possible.”

Five years later, Pickett had set his retirement date for Jan. 30, 2015, and decided to run against Selectman Mac Gill for the District 116 seat, campaigning as a “problem solver.”

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“I felt that if I was elected as representative, it would be my duty to go to Augusta and find people who could help me solve problems,” Pickett said. “I knew that when it was time to make decisions in Augusta about things that were important to the people in this area, like revenue sharing or the state budget, it would be up to me to inform them, make sure they’re getting the best information possible.”

Since being elected, Pickett said he has been in and out of committee meetings and has been as busy as he was when he was chief of police.

“When I retired in 1998, I only had a four-day break between jobs,” Pickett said. “I didn’t even have a break between the time I retired in January and the time I started working in Augusta. I was elected in November of last year, and even though it was pretty slow to begin, it’s been a lot of work.”

While the Board of Selectmen is attempting to find a new chief, Lt. Jeff Howe, who has served with Pickett in Dixfield for over 15 years, was appointed interim chief.

Pickett said he could not be more pleased that Howe is getting the opportunity to prove himself.

“I know him really well, and he’s been committed to this job since I started working with him over 15 years ago,” Pickett said. “I told him if he applied himself, he’d have what it takes to get to the next level, and he certainly hasn’t done anything to dissuade me of that. I know he’s in the running for the position, and all I can say is that I think the department would be in good hands with Jeff as chief.”

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Though his job as state representative doesn’t leave him a lot of time to relax, Pickett said he loves to spend time with his wife of 42 years and his nine grand-children.

“My kids live with my grandchildren in southern Maine, and they’re active in sports, so I go down there to watch them any chance I get,” he said. “I can honestly say that I couldn’t have done any of this, whether it was working for the Police Department or working in Augusta, without the love and dedication of my wife.

“She was there with me every step of the way, and it wasn’t always easy,” Pickett said. “There were times when I was working long hours, and she would have to take the kids by herself, but she was there with me 100 percent.”

Pickett said that after working in law enforcement for nearly 40 years, there is one thing he knows for certain: His goal has always been to be a servant to the men, women and children of his community.”When I was a cop, I was a servant to the people in the state of Maine,” Pickett said. “I did anything I could to keep them from harm, and to help them if they were in danger. As a state representative, I’m a servant to the people in my district. I serve them and their wishes when I go to Augusta. I’ve always done everything in my power to make sure the people in my community are safe.”

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